- Dan Graziano, ESPN Staff Writer
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The big news today in the NFL is, once again, out of New Orleans, where two current Saints defensive players and two former ones have been suspended for their alleged role in the Saints' bounty programs. Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma has been suspended for the entire season and defensive lineman Will Smith has been suspended for the first four games. Former Saints defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove, who was in camp with the Philadelphia Eagles last year and is now with the Packers, is suspended for eight games, and former Saints linebacker Scott Fujita (now with the Browns) is suspended for three.
This all assumes that these suspensions hold up, and we have yet to hear from the NFLPA, which has been arguing for weeks that the league had insufficient evidence to support claims that the players were complicit in administering the bounty programs or that they acted on bounty offers during the games in question. But assuming Vilma and Smith are suspended at all, that's a nice little break for the Washington Redskins and rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III, who are scheduled to open the 2012 regular season against the Saints in New Orleans on Sept. 9. While a road game in New Orleans remains a difficult challenge for anyone, especially a rookie quarterback, the Saints' defense obviously becomes somewhat less fearsome if Vilma and Smith aren't on the field.
The other three teams in the NFC East also play the Saints this year, though all are scheduled to do so after Smith's suspension expires. The Eagles open their season Sept. 9 in Cleveland against the Browns, who will be without Fujita if his suspension is upheld.